7 May 2020

Winston Peters tells China's ambassador to 'listen to her master'

8:17 pm on 7 May 2020

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has told China's Ambassador to heed her "master" back in Beijing, after the embassy issued a pointed statement on New Zealand's position on Taiwan and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters. Photo: Pool / NZME

Winston Peters told reporters today New Zealand backs Taiwan rejoining the international health body.

"Our position is to join a number of countries in seeking to get them put back on the WHO [World Health Organisation] as an observer, as they were in 2016."

Taiwan's handling of the coronavirus had been a "standout world success story", Peters said.

"They have got something to teach the world and every country, including China, must surely want to know the secret of their success."

On Tuesday, Peters said his long-held personal view was Taiwan should be able to rejoin the WHO.

"Personally, you've got to have every population in the world in the WHO if it's to have any meaning."

Taiwan's exclusion from WHO, due to China's objections which considers the island one of its provinces, has infuriated Taipei.

The Chinese Embassy released a statement in response reinforcing the "one-China principle".

"This is a common consensus of the international community and upholding this principle is a basic norm in the international community. WHO is a specialised UN agency composed of sovereign states. As a province of China, Taiwan is not eligible for the membership of WHO."

It said the Chinese government had "frequently and promptly shared relevant information with the Taiwan region" after the Covid-19 outbreak.

It accused the Democratic Progressive Party authority in Taiwan of making "reckless political manoeuvres and trying to hype up Taiwan's participation in the WHO and the World Health Assembly".

"Their real intention is to seek 'independence' by making use of the pandemic. We are firmly opposed to that," the statement read.

It went on to say the "one-China principle is the political foundation of the China-New Zealand relationship".

"China appreciates the long-standing adherence of the one-China policy by successive New Zealand governments since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"We hope New Zealand will continue to abide by this principle, properly handle issues related to Taiwan and uphold the sound development of China-NZ relations with concrete actions."

However, Reuters reports that Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said the 1971 decision, under which Beijing assumed the UN China seat from Taipei, only resolved the issue of who represented China, not the issue of Taiwan, and did not grant China the power to represent Taiwan internationally.

In response to the statement from the embassy, Peters said the Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wu Xi should "listen to her master, Wang Yi, back in Beijing" who had given him assurances "China does not behave that way".

"In any way that she might be suggesting and I trust him and I trust the administration to keep their word."

The embassy has not responded to a request for comment.

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